2008 NPC Jr. USA Championship Review!

The 2008 NPC JR. USA was the official kick off to the national level NPC season. Over 200 competitors made the trip to Charleston, South Carolina where the show has been held for the past three years.

The 2008 NPC JR. USA, promoted by Tres Bennett and his wife IFBB Figure Pro Shannon Meteraud, was the official kick off to the national level NPC season. Over 200 competitors made the trip to Charleston, South Carolina where the show has been held for the past three years. Each competitor had their own reason for competing, the fitness and figure women had an opportunity to reach IFBB Pro status while the men and women bodybuilders had bragging rights up for grabs.

I've attended this event every year since it found it's way to Charleston and the area surrounding the venue continues to improve. Three years ago there were no restaurants or stores but now there is both as well as a new Holiday Inn, which a few competitors chose to stay at and was nearby the venue. They told me it was nice and had no complaints. The venue and hotel are five minutes from the airport which makes it an easy trip for those flying to the event.

Charleston isn't the easiest to get to in terms of flights but it's not horrible. I wasn't prepared for the humidity when I arrived on Friday afternoon. I left Denver wearing a sweater and in Charleston that was definitely not needed. The promoters had arranged for me as well as the judges to be picked up at the airport, which was a nice touch and much appreciated.

I was greeted by IFBB Figure Pro Melissa Griffin who competed in this show last year. We made the short trip to the hotel and checked in without any trouble. Well, except that Shannon STILL doesn't know how to spell my name. ISAAC HINDS, Shannon! Kidding.

The Embassy Suites served as the host hotel and it was very accommodating to the competitors. I travel to a number of shows throughout the competitive season and there are a couple things that I like to have and a couple things that I NEED to have.

One of the most important being an internet connection and one that works. Unfortunately, this hotel's only downfall was their internet or lack there of. I couldn't get a connection and was told by tech support to get a "bridge" from the front desk. When I requested their bizarre little device, they informed me they had all been checked out and there was nothing they could do.

Isaac Hinds Talks With Amy Villa-Nelson At The Champion Nutrition Booth.
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Embassy Suites is nice in that you have a refrigerator, large living room as well as bedroom. One very nice touch to this hotel was a happy hour from 4:30-7:30pm with free drinks and snacks. They also have a free breakfast buffet in the morning. The restaurant had a special menu for competitors which was nice if you needed to eat clean.

The venue is one of the best of the year. Plenty of space for vendors to set up and provide product samples and it is connected to the host hotel. The auditorium is large as is the backstage and changing areas. This makes it convenient for the female competitors to have a few mirrors and keep a bit more private from the men backstage.

The press pit has plenty of space for the judges and photographers which makes it more enjoyable during prejudging. Shannon and Tre had snacks as well as water, coffee and soda for the judges and even let little photographers like me have a cup of coffee.

Isaac Hinds Talks With IFBB Pro George Farah At The Optimum Nutrition Booth.
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Pre-Judging
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The prejudging started at 9am with the fitness routines. Sandy Williamson was the head judge for the women's events which was a great thing for all the female competitors. Competing in front of Sandy can only help your competitive career as she will always provide honest and on point feedback.

She'll also be judging you in the pro ranks, should you make it there. The entire panel of judges was made up of some of the best in the industry and it was clear from the beginning they were going to let the women know their thoughts. I'll get to that in a minute.

There were a total of 11 fitness competitors and I hope we see more competitors in the shows ahead. Ashlynn Evans was the only short class competitors but demonstrated good strength moves and went on to win the overall title. Her physique is better suited for fitness than figure. She carries a bit more muscle than the look the judges are after in figure, particularly her shoulders. Check out the video I did with Ashlynn the day after the show. She shares a bit more about herself.

Short Class Ashlynn Evans.
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The medium class was won by Brooke Kiser. Brooke was in third after the routine rounds but moved up in the physique rounds which ultimately led to her victory.

Lishia Dean won the routine round in this class and the Jen Hendershott influence could be seen in the choreography. Safiya Johnson, the sister of American Gladiator "Stealth" Tanji Johnson had a good routine but moved down in the physique rounds and ended up finishing third.

The tall class was won by Alissa Carpio. She showed great energy and killer routine outfit. She won both the routine and physique rounds. The only real downfall that Alissa showed at this show was her makeup. It sounds like a minor detail but in some cases can be the difference between a place or two. I didn't effect her placing here but in a more competitive field it could.

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Women's Bodybuilding
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The women's bodybuilding was a good show for the most part. When there isn't a pro card up for grabs, the numbers tend to be down. This is a great show for people looking to get on the national stage and most competitors should compete in this show or Jr. Nationals before making the leap to Nationals or USAs.

Jennifer Lynn Cowan aka "the beast" won the women's lightweight with straight ones. She displayed a very conditioned physique as well as nice symmetry and overall muscle. She exemplified what a female bodybuilder should look like. Her evening posing routine was to a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles tune which was interesting and had her kicking and grinning from ear to ear.

Joy Henderson bested Penny Ruff for the middleweight title. She had nice lines and symmetry as well. Like Cowan, Joy showed a very feminine physique. Lisa Boushard was the clear winner in the women's Lightheavyweight division. Many felt she would win the overall title later in the evening. She possessed the most mass and best conditioning of this class.

Faith Lee Hooton edged out Amanda Micka for second place in this class by one point. The heavyweight class was won by Mary Elizabeth Hobbs, who in my eyes was the clear winner. The judges didn't all see it that was as she received a couple second place votes as well as a third place.

It didn't matter in the end as she bested Casey Daugherty for the win. The judges sent a message that they want the female bodybuilders to show muscularity, conditioning, nice symmetry and still look feminine. This was a great move in my opinion by awarding Cowan the title.

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Figure Division
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Figure continues to be the biggest draw in the NPC. The number of women who came looking for glory in Charleston was well over 100. As usual some women looked too big and too hard while others looked like they needed a better diet and a few more weeks. Every show someone is unhappy and usually the only truly ecstatic person is the overall winner.

The competitor's husbands, boyfriends, trainers or family will probably tell them they were overlooked and the judges don't know what they are talking about. It has happened for years and will continue to happen, it's the nature of the industry.

Those who take an objective look at their physique and presentation can learn a great deal from a show like JR. USA. Last year Jennifer Gates placed third in her class but instead of complaining and whining she used it as motivation. She is now one of the top pros in Figure, with a pro win, Olympia showing and second at this year's Arnold Classic.

The figure A class was won by the adorable Jamie Costa. Jamie is from Las Vegas, NV and has really begun to dial in her physique. She exemplifies nice balance, poise and muscularity while looking feminine. Jamie was rather muscular in her first few shows before she streamlined her physique to what it is today. Look for her to turn pro this year.

Jessica Lyons won the B Class and ended up taking home the second pro card at the end of the night. Jessica has nice symmetry and best 20 other women in this class. One woman who stood out to me was Solveivi Hernandez who placed third. She has a nice look and wouldn't be surprised to see her consistently battling for the class top spot.

Won Pro Card in B Class, Jessica Lyons.
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The C class was loaded with women and the toughest class of the show. Lenay Hernandez was the obvious choice for the win. She came out last sporting #140 and they did save the best for last in this class. This was her first national show, having qualified by winning the 2007 Gold Cup. Lenay went on to win the overall title and it was another great call by the judges.

Overall Figure Winner Lenay Hernandez.
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Lenay Hernandez!
2008 NPC Jr. USA Overall Figure Winner
New IFBB Figure Pro Lenay Hernandez!
Photo Courtesy Of Isaac Hinds.
Week #113 - 5/20/2008
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I wouldn't be surprised if we see her on the Olympia stage this year competing against her mentor and trainer Paola Almerico. Lenay plans to make the Houston Pro her debut show in July. She placed ahead of Gale Elie and Ana Tigre in this class.

Gale looked good and if she comes in a tad sharper to Jr. Nationals you may see her turn pro. Ana Tigre improved dramatically from her NPC IRONMAN showing and you'll see her in Chicago for Jr. Nationals as well.

One woman I thought was totally lost in the shuffle and you'll see her move up at USAs was the 12th place finisher, Kristin Nunn. She has great skin tone, symmetry and muscularity and should find herself in the top five in Vegas. Khristy Poteat also caught my eye but I think was a bit too muscular and why she finished in 14th.

Pamela Soper was in second with her one piece but dropped to 7th in her two piece, this ultimately put her in fifth. Look for her to be in the top five at her next show.

Figure D class was also loaded with women and Terri Turner ended up victorious in this class. I really like Terri's look and symmetry. Another to keep an eye on is Bree Marsh who finished in fourth. She was a little too light with her tan but an easy fix for the next outing.

The E Class was won by Catherine Holland and I wouldn't have complained had she been given the second pro card. She has great symmetry and is a beautiful girl with just the right of muscularity. Catherine is definitely worthy of IFBB Pro status from where I sit.

Sharon Van der Horst Sharon Van der Horst
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Sharon Van der Horst.
View More Pics Of The Figure Classes At The 2008 Junior USA.

Another one to watch is Jenny Lewis, she finished in fourth and her one piece hurt her but watch for her to pose it out for a top spot in her next show.The tall class (Figure E) was won by Sharon Van der Horst. She's one tall drink of water who has great stage presence. I like her look and if she tightens things up just a bit for her next show she could be going for a pro card.

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Men's Bodybuilding
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Men's Bodybuilding had a number of great competitors. It is awesome to see quality guys compete in this show as there is no pro card up for grabs which tends to keep some at home.

The Bantamweight was won by Michael Echevarria who had a ton of energy in his evening posing routine. You could tell he was happy to be on stage and showed a good physique for a little guy. He edged out Mark Teasley by one point for the victory.

Kelvin Moore had a bit more size than Gene Johnson and ended up prevailing in the lightweight class. Michael Elgawly bested three others in the middleweight division to take home top honors.

Erik Ramirez looked sharp in the lightheavyweight division and placed first over Kris Lecomte.

The heavyweight division was won by Rafael Jaramillo who has a great physique and loads of potential. He bested Marlon Ballesteros who finished in second.

Cedric was quite the entertainer for the superheavy class. Cedric Mcmillan took straight ones and ended up the overall champion of the night. He has a tremendous back and good arms. He shared with me after the show that he is going to take some time off, add some size and come back next year at the JR USA show. If he is able to bring up his legs and keep his symmetry in balance as it is now he could be a great competitor in the national ranks.

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Guest Posers
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Guest posers for the night were Shannon Dey who flipped across the stage and wowed the crowd with her amazing strength skills. Last year's JR USA overall winner and now IFBB Pro, Mike Horn was in great shape and hit a few shots before he was joined by his son, Steel, on stage. The two had fun throwing out shirts and clothing to the audience.

Guest Poser IFBB Pro Shannon Dey.
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IFBB Pro Flex Lewis guest posed and gave the fans a preview of what was to come at the 202 and Under Class at this summer's Europa Super Show. Flex had a film crew following him around the show and I was told by his lovely girlfriend that they are doing a documentary on him. Where and when it will air, I'm not sure but Flex is a cool guy with loads of potential.

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Conclusion
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I photographed the show for NPC NEWS magazine and served as the "official NPC photographer". Those of you who wish to purchase photos and view more photos can do so by visiting Liftstudios.